Skip to content

Native plants

Native plants

Updated 16 July 2020 3:48pm



In their varying combinations, native plants are important structural components of the region’s ecosystems. This page contains information about some of our coastal, wetland and forest plants. Distinctive ecosystem types depend on a number of factors, such as soil type and climate.

Maintaining the mosaic of ecosystems across the region ensures the future of a more complete range of plant and animal species. Some ecosystem types are particularly at risk, such as coastal dunes and wetlands. These areas contain special plants that are adapted to living in the particular conditions of those environments.

Coastal plants

SpinifexSand dunes are important natural areas, not only for their ecological significance but also because they help protect our beaches and coastal areas from erosion. Dunes act as barriers against the damage done by storms and waves. The plants associated with sand dunes tend to be suited to different parts of the dune system. The seaward side of a dune is known as the foredune, and plants like pīngao (golden sand sedge) and spinifex are well suited to these exposed areas. They trap sand in the hairs on their leaves and hold it together with their roots. This is how sand dunes are built up over time. Sand coprosma, sand daphne and piripiri (sand bidibid) are suited to the more sheltered mid dune areas, while tauhinu (cottonwood) and flaxes grow well in the backdune (landward) areas.                                                 


Toroheke (sand daphne)Many native plants are endangered in the wild and they often don’t get the recognition or help that our native animals do. The Wellington region does have some regionally rare and endangered plants. Toroheke (sand daphne) and New Zealand sea spurge (Eurphorbia glauca) are both coastal plants at risk with declining populations.               

Check out the duneland and rocky coastal sections of ourWellington regional native plant guide for more information.

Wetland plants

Wetlands are special ecosystems for our native plants and animals, and they are now much rarer than they used to be. There are a range of different wetland types - some under forest, some with brackish water, and some that dry up in summer. Each of these has plants that are adapted to the soil and climate conditions and to the hydrological regime (the water cycles) of their location.

Wetland plant types range from grasses (like toetoe) and sedges (like isolepsis) to ferns (like swamp kiokio) and giant trees (like kahikatea).

Have a look at our wetland resources to find out about other wetland plants or how to restore a wetland.

Swamp forest


Forest plants

There are several different forest types in the Wellington region, characterised by different plant communities. To find out more about the different ecological zones in the region, and to learn about what is appropriate to plant in each, check out the Wellington regional native plant guide.

Forests have very small plants, like mosses and orchids, and very large plants like the majestic northern rātā and the podocarp trees (including rimu and mataī). These large trees emerge above the main canopy and often support whole communities of other plants, called epiphytes, which grow on their trunks and branches.

Smaller trees form the canopy of the forest and below these in the sub-canopy there is a big range of shrubs, ferns, palms, grasses and climbers. In a healthy forest, all of these plant types are represented and there is a good mix of different species and different sizes.

You can find information about the region’s forests plants in the Wellington regional native plant guide. Or you might like to visit some of the stunning forest sites in the region:

Kaitoke Regional Park

Otari-Wilton’s Bush

Aorangi Forest Park